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What Is Yellow Flax?

Linen made from yellow flax.
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  • Written By: Deborah Walker
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2014
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Linum flavum, or yellow flax, is native to the eastern Mediterranean and India. It is one of the oldest known cultivated crops, dating back to 30,000 BCE. Yellow flax is used in landscaping and has many commercial applications. The yellow flax plant is unfortunately susceptible to several fungal diseases and viruses.

Yellow flax, also known as golden flax, solin, and linseed, grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zones four through nine. This means that the lowest temperature yellow flax will tolerate is -30° Fahrenheit (-34.4° Celcius). It prefers to grow in an area with full sun. Yellow flax does best in alluvial soil or deep, rich loam soil. It does not grow well in clay, gravel, and sandy soils. Its water needs are average, but it should not be overwatered.

These plants range from 6 to 18 inches (15-45 cm) in height; they produce bright yellow, five-petal flowers from late spring until the middle of summer. Its flowers are 1/4 to 3/8 inches (0.63-0.95 cm) in diameter. Its evergreen foliage is slender, measuring 3/4 to 1-1/2 inches (20-40 mm) long. Yellow flax produces its seeds in small, dry, brown capsules.

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This species of flax is often grown in rock gardens and as an ornamental plant in home landscaping. It will attract bees, butterflies, and birds to the yard. Since it is tolerant of drought, some gardeners use it for xeriscaping, or planting in a landscape that needs no more water than it gets naturally. The plants should be spaced between 9-15 inches (22-38 cm) apart, depending on the sizes of the plants.

Today, flax is grown commercially for seed and fibers. It is used to make fishing nets, fabric, dye, and paper. Yellow flax is also added to some beauty products such as hair gel and soap. In addition, flax seed is taken as a nutritional supplement, and has been shown to lower cholesterol and helps even out blood sugar levels in diabetics.

Fungal diseases, such as brown stem blight, root rot, rust, stem mold and rot, and wilt, tend to plague flax. Plants can be infected with crinkle or come down with a case of chlorosis or stem twisting and bending. If one gets sick, it should be isolated from other plants. Fungicides are useful to eradicate fungal infections. Chlorosis can be prevented by monitoring the pH levels of the soil, not overwatering, and by being careful when using herbicides nearby.

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